cover image Liberty


Lynn Curlee. Atheneum Books, $18.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82823-2

In a treatment every bit as thorough and even more impassioned than his Rushmore, art historian and artist Curlee gives readers an exquisitely detailed behind-the-scenes look at the making of another American landmark, a gift from the French. His tribute opens with the full text of Emma Lazarus's sonnet ""The New Colossus,"" in which she refers to Lady Liberty as the ""Mother of Exiles."" Curlee follows with a finely honed description of the statue itself: ""She is not pretty, but she is beautiful, her features majestic and severe, her glance stern and full of concentration."" He demonstrates that the biography of the statue is inextricably linked to those of two Frenchmen, douard de Laboulaye and Fr d ric-Auguste Bartholdi, who first envisioned a monument to be built as a memorial to American independence; more than 20 years would pass before their vision would become a reality. Curlee includes fascinating details about the political wrangling, financial difficulties (an appeal directly to the American public by Joseph Pulitzer, via his newspaper, raised the final $100,000 for the statue's pedestal) and artistic labor; he is particular adept at explaining the engineering difficulties involved in putting together and supporting a statue that soars more than 150 feet tall and weighs more than 32 tons (Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel created its ingenious iron frameworkDnine years later, he would create his famous tower). Curlee's flat acrylics, which typically position the viewer looking up at the statue from below, work to create a majestic presence for ""Liberty Enlightening the World."" A reverent, absorbing homage to the world-renowned symbol of American freedom. Ages 7-12. (May)